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Thread: Future Direction of the Forums?

  1. #1
    Xtreme Owner Charles Wirth's Avatar
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    Future Direction of the Forums?

    Serra
    Hello Charles,

    Originally I had thought to send you a PM, but I think that an open letter might help to not just answer my questions, but those of some others as well.

    I have been away from XtremeSystems for a couple of years now and I must admit that I have missed the community. I was not gone because of spats with any members or anything like that, it was simply a confluence of events. More specifically, I had a kid (followed immediately by another), my job got busier and XS's population had been starting its noticable decline so I was simply not needed as much. After I was gone for a few days I checked in but saw no PM's or posts for me, and I did the same a week later, etc. Fast forward about 2 years and here we are today, with me finally seeing a bit of space in my calendar but wondering - should I come back to XtremeSystems?

    At the root of my question is a curiosity for the ultimate direction for the site. When I left two years ago the decline had already been noticable, and based on recent activity I am not sure that a person could fairly claim that there are more than 10 or 20 truly active posters anymore. Is that a lull that you want to bounce back from, or has XtremeSystems accepted a fate as a relic forum for private use by a few good friends? If it is the latter I can accept that explicitly, though I would probably stop checking in as my experience over the last few years of monitoring the forums suggests that my level of knowledge in my areas of expertise won't be needed anymore. However, if it is your expectation that XtremeSystems can or will bounce back I am happy to return - but I need you to instill some confidence in me that there is a plan for direction and improvement as the current methodology is clearly not geared for that purpose.


    If you do want to see a bounce-back, I might humbly make the following recommendations (for starters):

    1. Stop believing the rhetoric that XS is fated to obscurity because of a shrinking enthusiast market.
    There is some truth to the idea that hardware overclocking is becoming less common, but at the same time there are still new technology areas coming out that fit in extremely well with the XS ideology. For example, 3D printing, smart sensors, automation, and most anything that is made with an Arduino. XtremeSystems is about getting the most out of what is available, and all of those markets need enthusiastic communities to help them do just that.

    And, of course, there is still room to continue searching for overclocking excellence - and a broader market appeal will help with that.


    2. Open registration for the site and make it free.
    This one is non-negotiable; if you want XS to bounce back, registration must be open and free. I understand that there is some hassle with this, but none of the challenges are insurmountable - countless other forums have dealt with them for years. If people cannot post they cannot contribute or have their questions answered, and without new blood this community cannot continue.

    Registration must also be free because, frankly, at this point I have no idea why a person would pay as much as $1 for the right to post on a forum that only sees ~20 new posts a day.


    3. Get the community more involved
    I think this is one I used to harp on when I was a mod, and I stick by it. The community is not just a set of people who read and post, it is a collection of active individuals who spent dozens of hours every week doing their own computer-releated activities and who may check for new posts as often as once an hour. They are already enthusiastic about the forum and its direction - why not involve them more? This will involve the loss of some control which has typically been closely guarded, but I don't think that guarding has really ever been intentional.

    Here are some basic ways the community could be incorporated more:

    Give members with a certain post count or length of stay the ability to ban members with a small number of posts and/or who have only been active for a short while.
    This is a response to the issue of open and free registration. Open it up and let the community be more active with policing. If people are banned early on inappropriately, the banners can always have their capability revoked and the person who was banned can sign up again (or have their old account un-banned). In the message sent to people who are banned, perhaps have it include an e-mail address which people can contact if they feel they have been banned inappropriately.

    This might require some additional expertise with the board software, but if you really look around I'm sure you can find some members with a programming background who can help.


    Decide on (and stick to) how this forum will be positioned
    XtremeSystems has always said that it is an "expert-level" forum. However, beyond saying that, what has XS really done to promote that idea? Sure, we started with some knowledgable folks and more came over as a result, but the trend has never been specifically encouraged in meaningful ways. If traffic begins to pick up and membership opens, a lot of new blood will come in, and unless something is done to encourage more "in-depth" discussion and a greater skew towards expertise, the forums will water down quickly.

    There are a few ways this could be encouraged, if XS wants to remain an "expert" forum. Some examples could be creating a knowledge-based ranking system (similar to "thumbs-up" seen on other forums), or awarding the right to use certain icons in a signature/picture, or certain titles. Perhaps once a person is recognized as an expert in a particular area they could get a new name color and the ability to be full mods within the forums which serve their subject matter area. Maybe even create an "experts-only" area that only the experts have access to.


    Encourage the community to provide direction
    Member input was traditionally read and sometimes discussed behind closed doors, but quite often it was just dismissed. Worse, that feedback was only rarely acknowledged by people who have the ability to modify the servers to fulfill the user requests, so the community members who wanted to help and change things were left with no greater understanding as to why their suggestion was not taken or, if it was, what kind of timeframe the implementation might be on. The real knife-twist however was that feedback was rarely actively sought. This forum does, of course, exist so that people can provide feedback, but it's a passive mechanism.

    Long/short of this suggestion - create a committee that actively solicits and publicly considers the merits of each request with a view of the consequences. Those committees could then make regular recommendations for what does and does not pass their first-line test to yourself and any other admins for changes.


    Ask for volunteers - Lots and Lots of volunteers
    Very much to your credit, the staff at XS is not a club reserved only for friends and croneys. Proof of that is the fact that as some of the old guard started leaving a number of people (including myself) who were not particular "chums" of any of the top brass were invited to be moderators. However, the scale of the number of "help" was always rather limited, and this is one area that I think ought to be addressed.

    Here are some quick examples of areas that a number of slots should be available in:
    - Social media communications (tweeting big news and leveraging facebook for the same can drive a lot of traffic)
    - Back-end coding (no offense Charles, but you aren't a coder and the Admin team has never been strong in this area)
    - Community Engagement/Feedback (ideas for how to improve the site)
    - Front-Page News (IMO this effort should have been ramped up, not let fall of the map)
    - Subject Matter Expert Writers - Eg. my "RAID and You" guide. SME's who select (or are given) a topic and who are asked to write high-quality/definitive sticky's for them.
    - Official Reviewers


    Review and Re-Order the Forums
    The order of the forums needs to be looked at and some of them need to be culled. A lot of work should probably be done now if a re-birth is desired, because the current layout and function is not very "user-focused".


    The goal in moving forums should be to ensure that the forms that most of the demographic we want to have are in the most convenient spots, ideally close to the top. A few specific recommendations:

    - Review the "Xtreme" section. Probably the most popular section we have is Xtreme News, yet that is the 8th forum under the Forum Rules area. Below areas like "Xtreme Augmented Reality" and "Xtreme Mobile" - sections which have never taken off.

    - Move the Xtreme Teams forum area down a number of slots. Members of those teams are probably a large percentage of the remaining population, but they are not what draws people to the site. In fact, people who are drawn to this site won't really even care about that subarea until they have been here for awhile.

    - Remove the term "Xtreme" off the following forums and re-file them appropriately:
    - Virtual and Augmentred Reality
    - Server
    - Storage
    - Mobile

    "Xtreme" is not a title XS should take lightly. These are areas where we should talk about bold modifications which require a substantial amount of skill and expertise, with some exceptions for "news" and "reviews" where the "Xtreme" view is promoted. This title should never be applied to consumer systems which even we do not take to the "next level" in a DIY fashion.


    As for culling, I think the attitude to take would be to ask "What do we need to have now to help us be successful in the ramp up?". The crux of that question is understanding that some forums that exist right now probably just make the board harder to navigate at the moment, but could potentially come back once the ramp-up hits a certain level of population.

    - Remove the Xtreme D20L team forum. Last post was in 2010!
    - Remove the Xtreme Dimes team team. Last post was in 2011!
    - Remove the OCZ support forum. That company doesn't exist anymore.
    - The Car and Truck forum hasn't had traffic since 2013. Do we need it or is it taking up space? Realistically, this discussion could take place in Wamps.
    - Do we need separate PhotoCHOP and Photography forums? I would create a new, single forum that consolidates both.
    - Consolidate the Console and PC Gaming Forums, and put them in Off Topic
    - Console gaming hasn't seen action since early in December 2013
    - PC Gaming, as far as XS is concerned, is more about GPU's/drivers. Always has been. Putting it in its own major section just takes up more real estate. Put in as a subsection to Off Topic feels more natural and puts what is probably the correct amount of emphasis on it.
    - I have never understood why Security & Networking is one forum. The two are distinct disciplines. Further, Networking is not really a "software" realm.
    - Remove Xtreme Storage. Storage is hard drives and flash drives; we never mod these things, we just spend more money on them. that's not Xtreme, and is trivially covered in the existing Storage section. (and that's coming from a guy big on storage)
    - Fold Xtreme Overclocking and Xtreme Bandwidth into one section. Frankly there is less of each activity going on these days, and one "Xtreme Overclocking" section that covers CPU's and Memory is going to fill the demand just fine.



    Awaiting your response,

    Serra
    Thanks Serra,

    Most people don't know that I took time off to get my life back in order after my divorce and being laid off after 10 years. The site suffered a lot in that time but I put knew I had to take care of my priorities away from the forums.
    The economy got better, I returned to full time work and my wife is pregnant all while maintain the forums in the process.

    I do know that most of the traffic is from search engines because this database is loaded with part numbers/keywords of everything PC ever made pretty much.
    XS is actually still very strong, I have a new server and 100M fiber, the software is fairly up to date as well. I have put in place stronger firewalls and improved security.
    XS DC and 3D teams are strong. I am thankful for the teams contributions and staying active over the years.

    The community is spreading out and getting thinner there are always new guys with lots of potential popping up but competing against the manufacturers for a top spot is almost impossible so many have moved on. And this brings up opening registration...

    Registrations, the $1 was to stop spammers and it was 99.9% effective. At that time spammers were using scripts to create accounts not just to this forum but to all forums. I have been looking at different options as the old software really sucked at stopping spammers. It was far easier when they didn't have signups automated with scripts that circumvented human verifications.

    We had 4.5k members return in the past year yet we get 35k visitors per day on a slow day.

    The addition of Panjo classified is an option that may work for us as most of us hate ebay and ridiculous fees. I started a new marketplace on Panjo for us and finished the setup and integration onto XS forums. I made the sales option only for members and staff of XS so visitors cannot sell, visitors can buy stuff now

    I already started removing outdated sections and will look more at your suggestions. I would like to pick up more staff soon.

    Charles
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  2. #2
    Xtreme Addict Evantaur's Avatar
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    tapatalk active yet? i used that a lot @ work when having "coffee breaks" ...

    I like large posteriors and I cannot prevaricate

  3. #3
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    I'm sorry Charles, but we absolutely need open registration. Lots of unique page views are great for advertising revenue, but mean nothing about forum health. "Returning members" means absolutely nothing if they aren't consistently posting.

    There are 27 members on-line right now. At 7PM EST. This should be prime-time for forum activity, there should be hundreds of users online right now. There are 27 - out of 121,000 users. Other competing tech forums have anywhere from 200-500 users active at any one time. I'm on two other extremely niche forums; one deals with antique farm equipment that currently has 98 users online (out of a userbase with an average age of 50 years old). The other one is one that deals in lawn equipment - and it has over 800 users active right now.

    None of these forums charge a registration fee. Infact, no forum I've ever used required a fee. I can tell you that I would immediately pass on any forum that required any kind of fee. Install recaptcha, and implement a sign up question and that will take care of 99% of your spammer problem.

    Next, I full agree with the "culling" needed. I agree with every single one of Serra's suggestions for which forums need to be consolidated or removed entirely. With a small active userbase, you need to keep the forum small and concise to keep activity in any given section up.

    I've seen many forums die, and without drastic changes XS will be soon to followI recommend you follow all of Serra's advice to a T.
    Last edited by [XC] Lead Head; 03-25-2014 at 03:01 PM.
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  4. #4
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    Captcha's are so annoying though...
    Sometimes you cant get past them.
    And there's also ocr software these days that bots can use.

    I do think an open reg would be a good thing.
    It took me about a year to get reg'ed on this forum, someone probably ref'ed me when I kept sending emails lol.

    That and I think the ban hammer is to quick to swing down sometimes.
    I figure might as well let us go at it for a while until we calm down by ourselves.
    I don't mind getting told to cut it, but to many times I've seen people get banned or topic get closed when there were still things to chat about.

    Donations are fine I think...
    And bots are pretty easy to spot, well unless someone made one to troll which happens.
    Not sure if that has happened here before but still, most of the time its check this out from a new member, or buy this...


    Another thing that comes to mind, even though this forum is supposed to be about computers and such.
    Maybe a political section?
    Would give us something to talk about offtopic wise, we're all smart mofos to some extent , there would probably be some interesting conversations to be had.

    I'de like to see the mobile section take off a bit more.
    All those little arm mobo's and such, there's some overclocking records to be had there.


    I think most of us are to busy with other things these days.
    For example I got a list I put together on bios bugs on the r4be board, over a dozen of them so far, but I never posted it, and now a new bios is out without any bug fixes ^^.

  5. #5
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    Serra's letter is an interesting coincidence. And I hope you'll allow me to comment as a long-time mostly-lurker who hasn't earned his stripes by volt-modding everything or playing with LN2...

    As a more general user rather than an Xtreme one, I do come here to find information and occasionally post in my limited area of interest/experience (storage). I think that probably makes me fairly representative of a large number of users that are on the fringe of Xtreme, following and enjoying the circus but dipping our toes in carefully. Yeah, I've done some water-cooling and I built my own case from scratch. But I'm not a gamer so I don't really follow the hyper-active fanboy discussions on GPU releases, which represent another very distinct large group of users you have here. My overall reaction to Serra's points is that they are mostly good, and would make sense for a general browser of the site rather than an Xtremely committed one who is usually active in very particular areas. For expanding general userbase and improving forum health, that seems to be a good direction.

    My concern as a general user would be the idea of non-mods having ban powers of ANY kind. Given the level of passion raised by some subjects (Intel/AMD, AMD/nVidia, Apple vs everyone else) that sounds like a recipe for disaster. Clear hierarchies of trust and responsibility are necessary for a reason. I'm the owner of my own forum, but I don't expect to be able to police this one as a mere user, and I would find it utterly unacceptable to be subject to the whims of a non-mod given ban powers. That's not the social contract I signed up for with this site. But I do recognise the difficulty of recruiting and keeping enough good mods to police a forum of this size and activity. As long as there are buttons to refer posts of concern to the mods, and these reports are actively checked, I don't see that there is an issue.

    Over the years the forum structure has definitely evolved some very strange and now apparently useless appendages that could be culled. However, I'd be loathe to see any loss of the Storage area as a distinct subsection, since that is my area of particular interest, and I feel it is important enough that it should not be pushed into "general hardware". It's an area that's fast changing and contains some essential reference information, and is often cited on Anandtech for the the long-term SSD durability testing that's been done by users there, which is certainly Xtreme! It certainly shouldn't be any less prominent in the listings than cases and case mods! But there does need to be some work done there to consolidate and fix the database - the Storage section under general hardware supposedly has 3922 threads in the listing, but only 9 are showing. Something is very wrong there. Whether or not there really are only 9 threads left, then moving them all to the main Xtreme Storage subforum would seem to be sensible.

    Given the size and visibility of this forum, you can't avoid being a target for spammers. But writing your own captcha mod is really the best way to block bots. Relying on third-party implementations means you are subject to any weaknesses or exploits there (and the whims of their server) - and issues outside your control when they do updates, such as the change to one common captcha system that had to be rolled back a year or so ago because the images were impossible to read, so no-one could get through it. A widely-used captcha system is a focus for attack, for the same reasons Windows has traditionally been a focus for virus authors. Writing your own means someone has to write their own bot hack against it from scratch, which is time-consuming and likely not worth the effort. (That was what I offered to do for you before and was ignored.) It's also relatively easy to mod the verification routines to check for (and dump) particular patterns of email addresses, sign-up names etc. that you detect as being likely spam sources. But this does take some willingness to mod your code, which affects the ease of updating the board afterwards.

    Serra is right, though - forcing payment to join simply as a substitute for a good captcha to protect join-ups is crazy... I'd never have joined if that had been in operation when I did.

    Thanks for listening.
    Last edited by IanB; 03-26-2014 at 04:04 AM.
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    3D Team Captain Don_Dan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IanB View Post
    But there does need to be some work done there to consolidate and fix the database - the Storage section under general hardware supposedly has 3922 threads in the listing, but only 9 are showing. Something is very wrong there. Whether or not there really are only 9 threads left, then moving them all to the main Xtreme Storage subforum would seem to be sensible.
    Go to Settings -> General Settings -> Default Thread Age Cut Off: Show all threads

    The database is fine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Don_Dan View Post
    Go to Settings -> General Settings -> Default Thread Age Cut Off: Show all threads

    The database is fine.
    Then someone changed my default settings without asking. How can I browse or search a site when large parts of it aren't being shown, due to an obscure setting in my profile? That is exactly the point I made in the other thread about blind updates to the board having unintended consequences...
    Quote Originally Posted by Particle View Post
    Software patents are mostly fail wrapped in fail sprinkled with fail and sautéed in a light fail sauce.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by [XC] Lead Head View Post
    I'm sorry Charles, but we absolutely need open registration. Lots of unique page views are great for advertising revenue, but mean nothing about forum health. "Returning members" means absolutely nothing if they aren't consistently posting.
    I agree. I actually believe it is responsible for the general decline of forum activity.

    Most of Serra's recommendations make sense to me.
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    Quote Originally Posted by IanB View Post
    Then someone changed my default settings without asking. How can I browse or search a site when large parts of it aren't being shown, due to an obscure setting in my profile? That is exactly the point I made in the other thread about blind updates to the board having unintended consequences...
    Its not an obscure setting, it's been that way for me from the begging, nothing has changed as far as I know. I think it is to lower traffic strain on the server and only shows the latest posts for a given time frame, then you have the option to show more if you want. The reason you might not see a lot of threads is that no one or few are posting in that section.

    This is not a user profile setting, but a view setting you can change at the bottom of each section. It will go back to default if you move out of that section.

    As Charles has said he is updating the forums so lets give him time to make changes.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buckeye View Post
    I think it is to lower traffic strain on the server and only shows the latest posts for a given time frame
    Then you don't understand how databases work.

    If I ask (in SQL code) for the last 30 posts from sub-forum "Storage", the subsystem only has to check one index to make the master list of posts - that showing which forum a message was posted in. If I ask for the last 30 posts from sub-forum "Storage" but only if they were made within the last year, then it has to check two indexes - the posting forum and the posting date. That's more work. Just because you are"seeing" fewer of the posts as a subset doesn't mean the system is doing less work, it's actually doing more index-checking to cut the larger list down. You still see only the last 30 posts regardless, so there's no difference in "traffic".

    So ironically I'll bet that pruned-view as a default setting for all users is actually putting more strain on the server.

    Anyway, sorry for the off-topic...
    Quote Originally Posted by Particle View Post
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    Yeah I understand how they work just fine. I am just saying its been that way from the day I joined.

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    Quote Originally Posted by IanB View Post
    Then someone changed my default settings without asking. How can I browse or search a site when large parts of it aren't being shown, due to an obscure setting in my profile? That is exactly the point I made in the other thread about blind updates to the board having unintended consequences...
    This has nothing to do with an update, it's just the default for the forum like it has always been. I changed it to "Show all threads" in my profile the day I joined and it has been like that ever since. Some subforums are just seeing less activity than some years ago, so you might have never noticed it before.

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  13. #13
    Xtreme Owner Charles Wirth's Avatar
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    Registration is open and there are two options.

    #1 pay $1 for instant access
    #2 wait for validation is free
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  14. #14
    Crunching For The Points! NKrader's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FUGGER View Post
    Registration is open and there are two options.

    #1 pay $1 for instant access
    #2 wait for validation is free
    perfect!

    all the things said make me so happy lets get this place bumpin again!

    get some more mods and open things up get some people back!

    Quote Originally Posted by FUGGER View Post
    Registrations, the $1 was to stop spammers and it was 99.9% effective. At that time spammers were using scripts to create accounts not just to this forum but to all forums. I have been looking at different options as the old software really sucked at stopping spammers. It was far easier when they didn't have signups automated with scripts that circumvented human verifications.
    you know how to fix this? open registration, more moderators that are active.. i cant see that big of a deal with spamers takes 5 seconds to fix one account and they post what? 10? 15? 20 times a day? for having the ability to attract new members and let them post instantly id say thats worth it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Evantaur View Post
    tapatalk active yet? i used that a lot @ work when having "coffee breaks" ...
    why not just browse the site with the browser? i got so tired of the limits of tapatalk i dont even have it installed anymore
    Last edited by NKrader; 03-26-2014 at 04:47 PM.

  15. #15
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    Thank you Charles, I really see the need as well to have this discussion and begin rebuilding all this.
    I do appreciate the space though, even if the vapor phase section is often just a few of us bouncing around.


    If you have a cooling question or concern feel free to contact me.

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    I'm here ready for the action.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FUGGER View Post
    Registration is open and there are two options.

    #1 pay $1 for instant access
    #2 wait for validation is free
    How long is the validation? If it's more than ~12-24 hours, it might be off-putting to some users.

    The Xtreme section definitely needs a reorganization though.
    Last edited by [XC] Lead Head; 03-26-2014 at 06:13 PM.
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    Its going to be alot less off putting than having to pay 1 dollar or nothing. I think fugger wants at least some kind of filter.
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  19. #19
    Xtreme Addict Evantaur's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NKrader View Post
    why not just browse the site with the browser? i got so tired of the limits of tapatalk i dont even have it installed anymore
    because it sucks for 4" inch screen

    I like large posteriors and I cannot prevaricate

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    Quote Originally Posted by Evantaur View Post
    because it sucks for 4" inch screen
    It ain't that bad, at least on my 1080p s4.
    It probably is though for lower res screens.

    I prefer the desktop interface (html) to installing some extra app on my phone.

  21. #21
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    Location
    Renton WA, USA
    Posts
    2,903
    Quote Originally Posted by Evantaur View Post
    because it sucks for 4" inch screen
    so little :P

    mine is 5.3

    Quote Originally Posted by NEOAethyr View Post
    It ain't that bad, at least on my 1080p s4.
    It probably is tough for lower res screens.

    I prefer the desktop interface (html) to installing some extra app on my phone.
    i do agree.

  22. #22
    Xtreme Cruncher
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Rhode Island
    Posts
    3,060
    It's already working - we just got our first new member in around 2 months!
    Fold for XS!
    You know you want to

  23. #23
    -150c Club Member
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Northeast, USA
    Posts
    10,821
    It's already working - we just got our first new member in around 2 months!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXwGVXD7qEQ

    Glad to hear it!


    If you have a cooling question or concern feel free to contact me.

  24. #24
    3D Team Captain Don_Dan's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Munich, Germany
    Posts
    4,163
    Quote Originally Posted by [XC] Lead Head View Post
    It's already working - we just got our first new member in around 2 months!
    Mission accomplished!


    Quote Originally Posted by chew* View Post
    You can never have enough D9's.

  25. #25
    Xtreme Cruncher
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    1000 Elysian Park Ave
    Posts
    2,669
    Make it more of a general electronics website, if necessary just call it "XS" and not "Xtreme" anymore

    Community gaming nights? Review? Guides?
    i3-8100 | GTX 970
    Ryzen 5 1600 | RX 580
    Assume nothing; Question everything

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